Part 5 Agios Georgios day
Saturday 1st September 2012
It was an alarmingly early start again today, to get down to the Great Harbour for our 7.24 a.m. ferry trip departure. As we checked out of the hotel at Reception I met the lady I have seen several times over the years, on duty at the desk which is open 24 hours a day. That was a pleasant surprise, to shake hands and exchange greetings before leaving. On the quayside, still before sunrise, I waited whilst my kind companion took our rucksacks to the ticket agents to leave safely for the day; I could see the moon high in the sky, the early sunlight creeping over the port, and several ships arriving and departing.
Today we are to sail on that little ship known to British Rail ferry lovers as HENGIST, but nowadays known to the Greeks and Ventouris Sea Lines as AGIOS GEORGIOS. Built 40 years ago in 1972 she is still sailing, with several of her original features there to see, and today we are to sail to the island of Serifos, in the Cyclades to the south east of Piraeus, arriving at 11.50 a.m. We have several hours there, before she comes back to collect us at 4.30 p.m. to return to Piraeus. What a delightful prospect!
We set off on time, passing several ships in the Great Harbour as we left, and seeing others out in Piraeus Roads (as I gather that area is called).
Sitting on deck under a shady awning was relaxing, so as soon as a light breakfast was demolished, it seemed sensible to go horizontal for a while and enjoy the air and sea breeze, pillowing my head on the much travelled turquoise pashmina-type big scarf.
Regaining consciousness I discovered that the breeze was Force 7, but the deep blue Greek seas were that wonderful and memorable colour, with the sunlight sparkling on the drops raised by the breeze and our movement through the water. I was soon approached by a Greek lady, speaking English, who wanted to ask me for an English word relating to the brain. It seems she was a retired teacher of English in Athens, living in Serifos, and was very keen to practise by talking with me. She was writing lecture notes at the time so I suggested the word she might need was ‘cerebral’, i.e. relating to the intellect in the brain. She seemed happy with that; I could hardly believe that the discussion had taken place in such unusual circumstances, but we talked about many things over the next half an hour.
We arrived a little late at Serifos because of the strong winds, but soon disembarked and watched AGIOS GEORGIOS sail away with more passengers to another island. The little sheltered port of Livadi is seemingly overwhelmed by the huge rocks/mountains that are seen at first, but the island has beautiful beaches and great tranquillity, and seems to be almost unknown to many visitors. We strolled through the little town around the sheltered bay, and looked at the houses perched precariously on the steep hill behind, until we came to a small hotel (Hotel Cyclades) with a café right on the beach, and there we spent the rest of the day. We sat under the thatched roofing, had lunch, I had a swim in the clear but cool sea near our table and talked with a few other people in the water, we had ice-cream, we watched the scenery, I wrote some diary notes and the ship list, pondered on the fact that I had sand between my toes, and did nothing much else, which was all very satisfying.
We strolled back to the quayside to await the ferry, and soon she appeared over the horizon and slightly late because of the wind.
Lots of passengers were already on board and we were amongst a big crowd embarking here at Serifos, but we had the forethought to expect this and had booked tickets for Distinguished Class in the upper forward part of the ship. We could sit in the comfy lounge with cheerful waitress table service for coffee or snacks during our return journey to Piraeus. Later I wanted to walk around and joined the many hundreds of people out on deck in a very cheerful atmosphere. There were babies, toddlers and views to admire, as darkness fell. Sunset was spectacular as we approached our home port but then we had to wait as two ferries had to leave the harbour on time. I could watch a fireworks display on land whilst waiting, which was pointed out to me by a friendly Greek lady.
We disembarked a little later than scheduled, but made good time to the ferry agents, who only close for about 5 hours a day after midnight, to retrieve our rucksacks. Then it was a very brisk walk to another part of the harbour to get a ship bus to Gate 2 for boarding our overnight ferry: IEREPETRA L. She was scheduled to leave at 11 p.m. for the journey to the port of Vathi on Samos island.
Ships seen: Blue Star Naxos, Blue Star Delos, Hoegh Osaka, Agios Georgios, Adamantios Korais, a Star clipper with 4 masts, Super Jet, Blue Star Paros, Theofilos, Wind Star (also with 4 masts), Highspeed 4, 5 and 6, Speedrunner 4, Knossos Palace, Al Venizelos, Flying Cat 1, Posidon Hellas, Phivos, Agios Nektarios Aeginos, Superfast 12, Sea Dream I, Helas Liberty, Knissos Mykonos, Jet Ferry 1, Panagia Agiasou, Asian Emperor, Neptune Lines Neptune Thelisis, Artemis, Marmari Express, Ierepetra L, Aegean Glory, Blue Star 1
To be continued….
Click on pictures to enlarge
Piraeus and Ships
Friday 31st August 2012
We arrived in Patras, in Greece at last, at 5.30 a.m. even before the sun was over the horizon.
Hundreds of us foot passengers disembarked and crowded near the port bus but it was quicker to walk along the quayside to the gates and out towards the bus terminal for the fast bus to Athens.
I slept most of the way but woke as we crossed the road bridge over the Corinth Canal; almost immediately we could see two small cruise ships bow to stern, and very close together so it was impossible to identify them. This will need the help of others on our return. A few miles later we could see several laid up ships in the waters off Elefsis, including two Speedrunners.
Athens was terrifically hot, but the air-conditioned bus terminal provided reviving coffee before we took a local bus to Piraeus near the Great Harbour. I love coming here to this port and think it must be one of the best in the world, for ships, views and general activity. There may be fewer cruise ships or ferries each summer, but it is still very exciting to watch them all or be part of it, especially during the early morning entry and exodus.
A visit to one of the many ferry agents just outside the port gates provided tickets for several of our upcoming sailings, plus the offer to mind our rucksacks during tomorrow’s day trip. That was much appreciated as we would then be able to collect them and board our ferry for the overnight trip. Finally it was time to get to the ideal Ideal Hotel for an overnight stay, leave the luggage and return to the harbour. En route we located the new premises of the Telstar-named bookshop and exchanged greetings with Mr Costas Papaconstantinou (he recognised me from other visits) and admired his lovely new shop. We could see many maritime books that we recognised, by authors that we knew. He also provides Lloyd’s List, newspapers and maritime publications in several languages.
By this time we needed a sea trip so we boarded a Salamis (or Salamina) Island ferry for the lovely cooling 30 minutes trip to the nearby island. At first the camera worked overtime, with so many ships to look at and photograph as we sailed from Piraeus Great Harbour. We saw lots of ferries and other vessels en route: many were laid up, some had sunk, and others were being worked on, but mostly they were sailing. What a contrast it all was with yesterday at sea!
It was so hot when we arrived at Salamis that even the usual stray dog was nowhere in sight, so we found a welcoming air-conditioned café nearby and stayed for coffee. The return journey to Piraeus was on another Greek-named ferry.
After a break back at the Ideal Hotel, we walked to the other nearby harbour over the hill in search of a local restaurant for dinner. After strolling for some time we headed back towards the Harbour again, through busy shopping streets full of other strollers. We saw lots of places serving coffee and drinks, but not one restaurant for food. I fear this shows the true state of the Greek economy, with some people able to go out for drinks of some kind, but no-one with money enough for a meal. It was only when we were back on the far side of the harbour, by this time after dark, that we could smell meat cooking in the open air. We followed the fragrance, and discovered fresh meat being barbecued outside a little side-street café, right next to the meat market, although that was now closed. There was just a choice of chicken or lamb – both of which were wonderful – plus a small carafe of local wine, bread and water, all of which cost just a few Euros.
What an amazing day.
Ships seen: At Patras: Kriti II, Aegean Tiffany
Soon after Corinth Canal Bridge: the two small cruise ships seen tied up close together. We would welcome identification of these please.
At Elefsis: Speedrunners 2 and 3,
At Pireaus: Elli T, Prevelis, Elyros, Olympic Champion, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Nissos Chios, Croisi Mer’s La Belle d’Adriatique, a cruise ship whose name I couldn’t see, a 3 masted yacht whose name I couldn’t read, Agios Nektarios Aeginas (the Aegina island ferry), Alexandros, Flying Dolphin 29, Flying Dolphin 17, Adamantios Korais, Poseidon Hellas, European Express, Ierapetra L, Hellas Liberty, Blue Star 2, Ocean Majesty?, Panagia Agiasou, Jet Ferry 1, Diagoras, Blue Star Paros, High Speed 5,
At Keratsini/Drapetsona Bay/Perama/Salamis island: Sea Breeze III (ex Scorpio), Pelagitis, La Galera (ex Nefeli), Mykonos (the ex Heysham-Belfast ferry), 3 x 74 m Incats, Golden Blaze, Cosmos Jet, Cyclades Express, Anna Maru, Aeolos Kenteris I, Penelope, Ocean Life (ex Easy Cruise Life), Kefalonia, numerous landing craft, Flying Cat III, Samos Spirit, The Martha (a laid up car ferry), Ruzgar, Mam I, Festos Palace, Alkyon, Phivos
To be continued….